DNR Wildlife Section proposes statewide deer harvest goal of 190,000

Whether they hunt in the state’s farmland area or the northern forest, all Minnesota hunters have a vested interest in paying attention to the deer planning process that’s currently under way. (Photo by Joe Albert)

The DNR Section of Wildlife, as part of the effort to create a first-ever statewide deer management plan, has proposed an annual harvest objective of 190,000 whitetails.

The proposal seems sure to be met with consternation, given it’s below the average harvest of recent years. The 30-year average harvest, for example, is about 199,000 deer per year, while it’s even higher for more recent time periods. The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association supports an average annual harvest of 225,000 deer, and some DNR officials in the past have said 200,000 or so might be the “sweet spot.”

While the state’s historical high harvest of 290,000 in the early 2000s certainly wasn’t sustainable, a harvest objective below 200,000 seems too low. The DNR often is accused of trying to hold down deer numbers, and setting a low harvest goal just gives ammunition to the people who make those claims. Severe winters and the like could preclude hunters from hitting a higher harvest, but what’s wrong with aiming higher?

At this point, the objective is a proposal and it could be changed as members of the Deer Management Plan Advisory Committee weigh in. In addition, once there’s a draft of the plan later this year or early next year, members of the public also will have the chance to comment on it and other parts of the plan.

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